Turns out, we could do worse. While coal as we traditionally know it is dark, ugly and hard, there are as many variations to this rock as there are to individial people. There are actually four types of coal that are broad and beautiful. It can be brilliant or dull; hard or soft; lumpy or smooth. And at Christmas, it can be downright mean if placed in a child's stocking.
My practical joker father once did something quite unwise. One year along with all the gifts my now-deceased brother, Steve, received, he also put lumps of coal in his Christmas stocking. It affected my brother harshly and he often mentioned it throughout his life.
Perhaps, however, as some sort of blunt childhood reversal, he became a collector of rocks, crystals and stones of all types and variations, including coal. I recall walking with him on beaches or among trees and leaves or even on the streets of New York City and he would stoop down as soon as something caught his eye. Some believe that rocks and crystals have healing and, even, spiritual properties. My brother believed this and would gift me with unusual pieces throughout the years.
After his death nearly four months ago, one of the items I selected to keep was a bowl of his rocks. I look at each one, admire it's unique beauty, and see what my brother saw - the glory of nature. Just holding one for awhile or admiring one sitting on my desk or windowsill makes me feel good.
I'm sure it was his inherit artist's eye that could see what others couldn't; their color and style, subtleties that evolved over thousands of years in each particular piece of stone.
Isn't that what we are - subtle yet brilliant pieces of nature's glory? With all our flaws, isn't there still beauty? When we make mistakes we usually create something unexpected. With cataclysmic geographical or personal events come tangible, hold-in-your-hand miracles.
And that's what personal trauma does. Through traumatic events, we find resources and support from friends we didn't know we had. We find good in what we once saw was evil. We, as members of humankind, turn ugly things into useful lessons. Just like the Earth is constantly in flux, so are we - shifting and changing with the events that shape us.
It is a somber Christmas for me this year. But I can sit and sift through my brother's rocks and remember the joy that he left me for eternity in the spirit of the season; in the spirit of love.